Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home

INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS AND GERMAN ANTHROPOLOGY IN THE ERA OF ‘DECOLONIZATION’

  • MATTHEW P. FITZPATRICK (a1)

Abstract

Decolonizing history and anthropology is often presented as a theoretical enterprise, through which a more rigorous and inclusive framing of historical precepts will deliver a clearer and less Eurocentric understanding of the past. Yet it is arguably necessary to decouple decolonization from the broader practices of anti-Eurocentric historiography. Via an empirical assessment of the legacy of Hermann Klaatsch, a German anthropologist working on the colonial frontier, this article examines the possibilities and limitations of a decolonizing approach to settler colonial history. The article reflects upon its own study of colonial anthropology and the historical complexity of the repatriation of Indigenous human remains, and suggests that not all anti-Eurocentric interrogations of the colonial past are synonymous with decolonization.

Copyright

Corresponding author

CHASS, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide, South Australia 5050, Australiamatthew.fitzpatrick@flinders.edu.au

Footnotes

Hide All

This research was funded by the Australian Research Council Grant DP 180100118: ‘Monarchy, democracy and empire’, as well as by the UA-DAAD Joint Research Co-Operation Scheme Grant ‘German anthropological legacies in Australia’. Thanks to Peter Monteath, Hilary Howes, Felicity Jensz, Anja Schwarz, Amanda Kearney, Christine Winter, Yann Le Gall, Sarah Fründt, and Kris Natalier for their insights while conducting this research. Above all, thanks to Kirsty Gillespie and Vera Ketchell for their invaluable time, assistance, and expertise. The conclusions reached in this paper are mine rather than theirs.

Footnotes

References

Hide All

1 The most detailed overview of Klaatsch's period in Australia is Erckenbrecht, Corinna, Auf der Suche nach den Ursprüngen. Die Australienreise des Anthropologen und Sammlers Hermann Klaatsch 1904–1907 (Cologne, 2010). See too Turnbull, Paul, Science, museums and collecting the Indigenous dead in colonial Australia (Cham, 2017), pp. 268–75.

2 The following makes use of the convention of capitalizing ‘Indigenous’ when used in association with Aboriginal Australians, while beginning ‘indigenous’ with a lower-case ‘i’ when used as an adjectival descriptor for non-European peoples on their colonized territories more generally.

3 Lichtenstein, Alex, ‘Decolonizing the AHR’, American Historical Review, 123 (2018), pp. xivxvii, at p. xiv.

4 Sabaratnam, Meera, ‘IR in dialogue … but can we change the subjects? A typology of decolonising strategies for the study of world politics’, Millennium, 39 (2011), pp. 781803, at p. 782.

5 Tuck, Eve and Yang, K. Wayne, ‘Decolonization is not a metaphor’, Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education and Society, 1 (2012), pp. 140; Long, Wahbie, ‘Decolonising higher education: postcolonial theory and the invisible hand of student politics’, New Agenda, 69 (2018), pp. 20–5.

6 Landmark works here included Said, Edward, Orientalism (London, 1978); Spivak, Gayatri Chakravorty, A critique of postcolonial reason: toward a history of the vanishing present (Cambridge, 1999); Chakrabarty, Dipesh, Provincializing Europe: postcolonial thought and historical difference (Princeton, NJ, 2000); Bhabha, Homi, The location of culture (London, 1994).

7 Fanon, Frantz, Les damnés de la terre (Paris, 1961); Nkrumah, Kwame, Neocolonialism: the last stage of imperialism (London, 1965); Cabral, Amilcar, Unity and struggle: speeches and writings (New York, NY, 1979); Césaire, Aimé, Discours sur le colonialism (Paris, 1955).

8 Uluru statement from the heart’, in Morris, Shireen, ed., A rightful place: a road map to recognition (Carlton, Victoria, 2017), pp. 12.

9 Alfred, Taiaiake, ‘It's all about the land’, in McFarlane, Peter and Schabus, Nicole, eds., Whose land is it anyway? A manual for decolonization (Vancouver, 2017), pp. 1013, at p. 13.

10 Tuck and Yang, ‘Decolonization is not a metaphor’, pp. 7, 31.

11 Fanon, Frantz, The wretched of the Earth (New York, NY, 1963), p. 44.

12 Cabral, Unity and struggle, pp. 20, 27.

13 Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Sabelo J., ‘The dynamics of epistemological decolonisation in the 21st century: towards epistemic freedom’, Strategic Review for Southern Africa, 40 (2018), pp. 1645, at p. 17.

14 Ibid., pp. 27–8.

15 Smith, Linda Tuhiwai, Decolonizing methodologies: research and indigenous peoples (London, 2008), pp. 12.

16 Ibid., p. 35.

17 Ibid., pp. 183–93. For an example of this reconceptualization, see Archibald, Jo-Ann, Morgan, Jenny-Lee, and De Santolo, Jason, eds., Decolonizing research: indigenous storywork as methodology (London, 2019).

18 Wolfe, Patrick, Settler colonialism and the transformation of anthropology: the politics and poetics of an ethnographic event (London, 1999); Gunn, Robert Lawrence, Ethnology and empire: languages, literature, and the making of the North American borderlands (New York, NY, 2015); Conkin, Alice L., In the museum of man: race, anthropology, and empire in France, 1850–1950 (Ithaca, NY, 2013); Apter, Andrew, ‘Africa, empire, and anthropology: a philological exploration of anthropology's heart of darkness’, Annual Review of Anthropology, 28 (1999), pp. 577–98; L'Estoile, Benoît de, Neiburg, Federico, and Sigaud, Lygia, eds., Empires, nations, and natives: anthropology and state-making (Durham, NC, 2005); Slightly complicating this view is Sibeud, Emmanuelle, ‘A useless colonial science? Practicing anthropology in the French colonial empire, circa 1880–1960’, Current Anthropology, 53 (2012), pp. S83S94.

19 On the anthropological canon and its relationship to empire, see da Col, Giovanni, Sopranzetti, Claudio, Myers, Fred, Piliavsky, Anastasia, Jackson, John L. Jr, Bonilla, Yarimar, Benton, Adia, and Stoller, Paul, ‘Why do we read the classics?’, Hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, 7 (2017), pp. 17.

20 Allen, Jafari Sinclaire and Jobson, Ryan Cecil, ‘The decolonizing generation: (race and) theory in anthropology since the eighties’, Current Anthropology, 57 (2016), pp. 129–48.

21 Bunzl, Matti and Penny, H. Glenn, ‘Introduction: rethinking German anthropology, colonialism, and race’, in Penny, H. Glenn and Bunzl, Matti, eds., Worldly provincialism (Ann Arbor, MI, 2010), pp. 130, at pp. 1–2.

22 Andrew Zimmerman, ‘Adventures in the skin trade: German anthropology and colonial corporeality’, in Penny and Bunzl, Worldly provincialism, pp. 156–78, at pp. 156–8.

23 Turnbull, Paul, ‘Theft in the name of science’, Griffith Review, 21 (2008), pp. 227–35, at p. 231.

24 Peter McAllister, ‘Interdisciplinary research key to avoiding history's traps’, Australian, 5 Feb. 2014.

25 Paul Turnbull, ‘Setting record straight on anthropologists’ Aboriginal motives’, Australian, 12 Mar. 2014.

26 McAllister, Peter, Rowlands, Shawn C., and Westaway, Michael C., ‘The blood and the bone: the collection of human remains and frontier violence in colonial-era Queensland’, Journal of Australian Colonial History, 17 (2015), pp. 115–32, at pp. 115–16, 132.

27 Turnbull, Paul, ‘Anthropological collecting and colonial violence in colonial Queensland: a response to “The blood and the bone”’, Journal of Australian Colonial History, 17 (2015), pp. 133–58, at pp. 133–5, 158.

28 On settler colonial violence more generally, see Wolfe, Patrick, ‘Settler colonialism and the elimination of the native’, Journal of Genocide Research, 8 (2006), pp. 387409; Moses, A. Dirk, ed., Genocide and settler society: frontier violence and stolen children in Australian history (New York, NY, 2004); Moses, A. Dirk, Empire, colony, genocide: conquest, occupation, and subaltern resistance in world history (New York, NY, 2008).

29 Bhabha, Location of culture, pp. 247–52.

30 Moses, A. Dirk, ‘Hayden White, traumatic nationalism, and the public role of history’, History and Theory, 44 (2005), pp. 311–32.

31 ‘Uluru statement from the heart’, pp. 2–3, emphasis in the original. This article does not take up the (important) question of the status of ‘truth’ in contested frontier histories. On this, see Klein, Kerwin Lee, ‘In search of narrative mastery: postmodernism and the people without history’, History and Theory, 34 (1995), pp. 275–98.

32 Tuck and Yang, ‘Decolonization is not a metaphor’, p. 19.

33 Erckenbrecht, Corinna, Fuary, Maureen, Greer, Shelley, Henry, Rosita, McGregor, Russel, and Wood, Michael, ‘Artefacts and collectors in the tropics of north Queensland’, Australian Journal of Anthropology, 21 (2010), pp. 350–66, at p. 352.

34 Massin, Benoit, ‘From Virchow to Fischer: physical anthropology and “modern race theories” in Wilhelmine Germany’, in Stocking, George W., Volksgeist as method and ethic: essays on Boasian ethnography and the German anthropological tradition (Madison, WI, 1998), pp. 79154, at p. 88.

35 See, for example, Bruno Oetteking's obituary, in which he credited Klaatsch with taking a position against Virchow and Ranke’. Bruno Oetteking, ‘Hermann Klaatsch’, American Anthropologist, 18 (1916), pp. 422–5, at p. 425.

36 Schott, Lothar, ‘Monophyletische oder polyphyletische Abstammung der Menschheit?’, Ethnographisch-Archäologische Zeitschrift, 14 (1973), pp. 116, at pp. 1, 5. As Zimmerman argues, such lionizing of Virchow as an anti-racist hero of German anthropology conveniently sidesteps his key work in the area of racial science in support of German colonialism in the Polish east. See Zimmerman, Andrew, Anthropology and antihumanism in imperial Germany (Chicago, IL, 2001), pp. 68–9, 142–5.

37 Fischer, Eugen, ‘Hermann Klaatsch’, Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 47 (1915–16), pp. 385–90.

38 Roth, Walter, Royal Commission on the Condition of the Natives report (Perth, 1905).

39 Klaatsch, Hermann, ‘Some notes on scientific travel amongst the black population of tropical Australia in 1904, 1905, 1906’, Report of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science, 11 (1908), pp. 577–91, at p. 583.

40 Plates 9 and 10 from the published version of the conference paper showed Indigenous prisoners with only waist ropes secured by chains. Copies of the more damning photos from Wyndham are in Erckenbrecht, Auf der Suche nach den Ursprüngen, p. 151.

41 ‘The science congress: fourth day's proceedings’, Express and Courier, 10 Jan. 1907, p. 1; ‘Three years among blacks: German scientific enterprise: Professor Klaatsch's researches’, Evening Journal, 10 Jan. 1907.

42 ‘Dr Klaatsch on the blacks’, Daily News, 11 Jan. 1907, p. 5. This longer, more detailed version of Klaatsch's experiences in northern Western Australia was also published in Launceston's Daily Telegraph: ‘Australian Aborigines: notes by Dr Klaatsch at the science congress’, Daily Telegraph, 18 Jan. 1907, p. 7. Compare this to the anaemic reporting of another Adelaide paper: ‘The chief attraction in the morning was a lecture, for men only, by Professor H Klaatsch, on the aboriginals of Northern Australia. This was beautifully illustrated by lantern views of the natives in various districts, and proved most instructive’ (‘The science congress: interesting reports: fourth day's proceedings’, Advertiser, 11 Jan. 1907, p. 7).

43 Roth, Royal Commission on the Condition of the Natives report.

44 ‘Australian Aboriginals: condition in West Australia: interview with Professor Klaatsch’, Brisbane Courier, 21 Feb. 1907, p. 5.

46 ‘Herr Professor Doktor Klaatsch’, Australische Zeitung, 16 Jan. 1907, p. 1.

47 Klaatsch, Hermann, ‘Schlussbericht über meine Reise nach Australien in den Jahren 1904–1907’, Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 39 (1907), pp. 635–90, at pp. 664–5.

48 Erckenbrecht, Auf der Suche nach den Ursprüngen, pp. 56–60.

49 Pringle, Helen, ‘Walter Roth and ethno-pornography’, in McDougall, Russell and Davidson, Iain, eds., The Roth family, anthropology, and colonial administration (Walnut Creek, CA, 2008), pp. 221–32. See too Ann McGrath, ‘Naked shame: nation, science and Indigenous knowledge in Walter Roth's interventions into frontier sexualities’, in the same volume, pp. 193–208.

50 Erckenbrecht, Auf der Suche nach den Ursprüngen, pp. 108–9.

51 Geoffrey Gray, ‘Walter Edmund Roth: royal commissioner of Western Australia, 1904’, in McDougall and Davidson, eds., Roth family, pp. 209–19; Lydon, Jane, ‘“Behold the tears”: photography as colonial witness’, History of Photography, 34 (2010), pp. 234–50; Gill, Andrew, ‘Aborigines, settlers and police in the Kimberleys 1887–1905’, Studies in Western Australian History, 1 (1977), pp. 128; Harman, Kristyn and Grant, Elizabeth, ‘“Impossible to detain … without chains”? The use of restraints on Aboriginal people in policing and prisons’, History Australia, 11 (2014), pp. 157–76.

52 Roth, Royal Commission on the Condition of the Natives report, pp. 11–21. Roth was also under attack in Queensland for having greatly restricted the access of pastoralists and miners to Indigenous Australians for the purposes of labour and, less openly, sexual gratification. See Gray, ‘Walter Edmund Roth’, pp. 215–216; McGrath, ‘Naked shame’, pp. 195–6; Erckenbrecht, Auf der Suche nach den Ursprüngen, p. 108.

53 Roth, Walter E., The animism and folk-lore of the Guiana Indians (Guyana, 2011; first published 1915).

54 Hermann Klaatsch to Otto Schoetensack, quoted in Erckenbrecht, Auf der Suche nach den Ursprüngen, p. 171. Klaatsch's links to Roth are not his only association with influential figures in Australian Indigenous affairs. His Adelaide paper also praised work by the young Adelaide-based researcher Herbert Basedow. Basedow would go on to study under Klaatsch in Breslau. See Hermann Klaatsch, ‘Some notes on scientific travel’, p. 584; ‘Dr Herbert Basedow: another distinction’, Advertiser (Adelaide), 26 Jan. 1910, p. 8; Zogbaum, Heidi, ‘Herbert Basedow and the removal of Aboriginal children of mixed descent from their families’, Australian Historical Studies, 34 (2003), pp. 122–38, at pp. 122–4; ‘Australian natives: Dr Klaatsch's treatise’, Advertiser, 5 Jan. 1912, p. 6; ‘The Australian Aboriginal’, Sunday Times, 8 Mar. 1925, p. 5.

55 McAllister, Rowlands, and Westaway, ‘The blood and the bone’, pp. 115–16, 132.

56 Klaatsch, ‘Some notes on scientific travel’, p. 583.

57 Roth would also sell ‘eighty skulls and other bones of thirty nine individuals’ to Klaatsch before leaving. See Turnbull, Science, museums and collecting the Indigenous dead, p. 268.

58 Turnbull, ‘Theft in the name of science’, pp. 160–6; Zimmerman, ‘Adventures in the skin trade’, pp. 156–8.

59 Vera Ketchell, interview with ABC North Queensland, 2–3 May 2017, https://soundcloud.com/abc-north-queensland/sets/king-ngtjas-remains-repatriated-to-north-queensland (no longer available; last accessed 4 Dec. 2017); Vera Ketchell, personal correspondence with the author, 16 Nov. 2018. The following account has been published with Vera Ketchell's kind permission.

60 Ketchell, interview with ABC North Queensland, 2–3 May 2017.

61 Klaatsch, Hermann, ‘Mumie aus Australien und Reisebericht des Hrn Klaatsch aus Sydney’, Zeitschrift für Ethnologie, 37 (1905), pp. 772–81, at p. 773.

62 Klaatsch to Schoetensack, 10–20 Jan. 1905, quoted in Erckenbrecht, Auf der Suche nach den Ursprüngen, p. 101.

63 Vera Ketchell, interview with the author, 15 Dec. 2017.

66 Ibid.; Ketchell, personal correspondence with the author, 16 Nov. 2018.

67 Natalie Fernbach, ‘Aboriginal ancestor's mummified remains repatriated to northern Queensland from German museum’, 2–3 May 2017, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-05-02/indigenous-ancestor-remains-returned-to-queensland/8479888.

68 Ketchell, interview with the author, 15 Dec. 2017; Ketchell, personal correspondence with the author, 16 Nov. 2018.

69 Erckenbrecht et al., ‘Artefacts and collectors’, p. 352.

70 Klaatsch, quoted in Erckenbrecht, Auf der Suche nach den Ursprüngen, p. 86.

72 Erckenbrecht, Auf der Suche nach den Ursprüngen, pp. 86–7.

73 Klaatsch, Hermann, Der Werdegang der Menschheit und die Entstehung der Kultur (Berlin, 1920), pp. 333–4.

74 Ibid., p. 91.

75 Kuss, Susanne, German colonial wars and the context of military violence (Cambridge, MA, 2017), p. 343; Gewald, Jan-Bart, Herero heroes: a socio-political history of the Herero of Namibia, 1890–1923 (Athens, OH, 1999), p. 190.

76 Evans, Andrew D., Anthropology at war: World War I and the science of race in Germany (Chicago, IL, 2010), p. 81.

77 ‘Postcolonial’ is used here to describe a theoretical approach, not to imply that settler colonial successor states such as Australia, New Zealand, and Canada have entered a ‘postcolonial’ era in their history. See Xie, Shaobo, ‘Rethinking the problem of postcolonialism’, New Literary History, 28 (1997), pp. 719, at pp. 7–8.

78 Tuck and Yang, ‘Decolonization is not a metaphor’, pp. 2–3.

79 Ibid., p. 11.

80 Ibid., p. 35.

81 Evelyn Araluen, ‘Resisting the institution’, Overland, 227, https://overland.org.au/previous-issues/issue-227/feature-evelyn-araluen/.

82 Long, ‘Decolonising higher education’, pp. 22, 25.

83 National Native Title Tribunal, ‘Native title recognised south of Cairns’, http://www.nntt.gov.au/News-and-Publications/latest-news/Pages/NativetitlerecognisedsouthofCairns.aspx.

84 Long, ‘Decolonising higher education’, p. 25.

85 Said, Edward, The world, the text, and the critic (Cambridge, MA, 1983), p. 4.

86 ‘Uluru statement from the heart’, pp. 2–3.

87 Long, ‘Decolonising higher education’, p. 25.

88 Tuck and Yang, ‘Decolonization is not a metaphor’, p. 3.

89 Araluen, ‘Resisting the institution’. More bluntly, she has argued elsewhere that, ‘When people seek to replace postcol[onialism] with decol[onisation] they reinforce the same issues but corrupt a language we are still building for ourselves … you can't decolonise your nice middle class house on stolen land. You can't decolonise academia as such.’ Twitter, 6 Aug. 2017, https://twitter.com/evelynaraluen/status/894386631787991040.

90 Land, Clare, Decolonizing solidarity: dilemmas and directions for supporters of indigenous struggles (London, 2015); Huygens, Ingrid, ‘Developing a decolonisation practice for settler colonisers: a case study from Aotearoa New Zealand’, Settler Colonial Studies, 1 (2011), pp. 5381.

This research was funded by the Australian Research Council Grant DP 180100118: ‘Monarchy, democracy and empire’, as well as by the UA-DAAD Joint Research Co-Operation Scheme Grant ‘German anthropological legacies in Australia’. Thanks to Peter Monteath, Hilary Howes, Felicity Jensz, Anja Schwarz, Amanda Kearney, Christine Winter, Yann Le Gall, Sarah Fründt, and Kris Natalier for their insights while conducting this research. Above all, thanks to Kirsty Gillespie and Vera Ketchell for their invaluable time, assistance, and expertise. The conclusions reached in this paper are mine rather than theirs.

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed